Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

I'm not quite sure how to ask this question, but I suppose the best way is just to plunge ahead.  So is it possible to change or make a song too much your own?  

I'll let people answer and then I'll explain why I've asked this question.

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Good question. I think what passes for our National Anthem today is beyond awful. Not only do "performers" forget words but many don't seem to know the melody. That off my chest as politely as I can manage, I would point out that one of the greats, Pete Seeger, encourages people to make a song their own. He has been singing and playing for decades and sharing his opinion. Pete has changed lyrics and modified melodies and inspired many of us for as long as I can remember.                   So not knowing the context of your question I would also remind you of the classical musicians playing their variations on a theme of whomever. I personally like to give recognition to those who have written or collected music - but then in a sense it belongs to a performer. Please remember to check copy right laws if intending to record   blah blah blah.


You've raised a good point in that I didn't say where I was coming from so I will. 

I had an "OH, HECK!!, or OPPS" moment just recently when I thought someone was playing a really interesting tune.  After asking what was just played, the reply was the title of a song I know very well.  Let's just say that the performer replied "Scotland the Brave" a Scottish song I can sing in my sleep.  I could no more have sung the song to the tune being played than I could stand on my head.  Where does making a song your own, even as an instrumental go too far?

And if there is no too far, can we really say that the song or tune is still the same song or tune???  Should we re-title it?

Good discussion.  Here's my take.

I like songs done the way they were meant from the beginning to be done.  I also like people using their own expression and putting a twist on something.  To me it basically boils down to each individual performance as to whether I like it or not.  I know that's not really answering your question, but it's really true for me.  I've heard stuff that I thought "OMG, I am going to hate this remake" and then completely loved the whole performance.  

Now, on the other end of the spectrum I've heard stuff that I thought was horrible too.  I try to stay within the confines of the melody of the song.  I may slow it down or speed it up, but I do want people to recognize the song I'm doing.  I've clicked on things throughout the internet where I'm like - Ummm what song was that supposed to be??  Sure didn't sound like (insert song title here) to me.  

I really think there is a fine line as to what works and what doesn't.  

I also think that there is a difference between someone who knows the song the way it was originally done and does it differently, versus someone who obviously does not even know the original tune.  Those are 2 very different things IMO.  

I've been guilty of playing something where I'm not familiar with the tune and it truly ends up sounding like POO.  But once I've got the melody down in my head I feel like I have a better grasp of the song and can then vary some things a bit to make it my own.  I know this is referring to singing, but it's also a great topic for playing because many people come up with their own arrangements for songs, me included.  

Hope I don't step on anyone's bunions, but I find it difficult to understand a lot of progressive or modern jazz. The musicianship I respect but when a piece is beyond my recognition - I wonder what the heck is being played and why should I listen.  While dodging arrows and screams of rage it must be admitted that I noodle on my instruments which might elicit a similar response of horror from others.....

One of the joys of music is being able to try to create something pleasing or thought provoking.

I was at a jam with a new group and I played a well known song, but I did it differently than they all do it, so they couldn't just jump in. But jams are a different situation. What I like is staying true to the melody, mostly, and then adding variations during an instrumental break.

I make a song my own by playing it my unique way...everyone will play if different even if using the same tab.  I may start off by playing a portion of the song as the intro and end the same way.  I like to play "parts of the tune" in a different octive or on the base string.  If I don't particullary like a verse I may just do instrumental during that part.  When I play cripple creek, since I am not a guy, I changed the chours to"  Goin to Cripple creek' goin on a run Goin to cripple creek to have a little fun,  Goin to Cripple Creek don't you know, Goin to cripple creek to see my bow.


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